KARACHI: Sindh’s opposition parties and traders’ organisations have sharply reacted to provincial government’s decision to impose weeklong lockdown on Karachi, accusing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) administration of shifting burden of its failure to poor population of the metropolis where hundreds of thousands of families depended on daily wages and small businesses.
The province’s major opposition party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, termed it a deliberate move by PPP government since any negative impact on Karachi’s economic health, which was business capital of the country, would ultimately affect the entire national economy.
“Neither traders nor any opposition party was taken into confidence over the decision,” said PTI Karachi chief and member of Sindh Assembly, Khurram Sher Zaman. “We reject the lockdown in the province as it seriously disturbs lives of general public. In fact, the Sindh government wants to harm businesses and people associated with them through the lockdown,” he said.
‘PPP govt trying to shift burden of its failure to contain the virus to poor population of the city’
“The NCOC had extended its cooperation to the Sindh government in fight against the virus and its head Asad Umar had advised imposition of smart lockdown rather than closing down entire cities,” he said.
He said that curbs on movement would only help police and local administration to maximize bribe collection. This decision, he said, was not aimed at containing Covid spread but it was a formula for increasing bribes.
PTI’s ally in the federal government, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), concurred and said the federal government had also raised questions over the Sindh government’s strategy for containing the contagion and supported the idea of smart lockdown.
“The Sindh government should realise difficulties of the poor section of society,” said Federal Minister and senior MQM-P leader Aminul Haq.
“The smart lockdown has proved effective as it causes little disturbance to common man. Still, if the Sindh government finds complete lockdown the only solution, it should think again what does it mean for a poor daily-wager who is only bread-earner for his family and is forced to stay at home without work for a week because of the lockdown?” he asked.
Jamaat-i-Islami Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman strongly opposed the imposition of the lockdown without taking measures to ensure livelihood of daily-wagers. It would be economic massacre of millions of daily-wagers and small business owners, he said in a press statement.
“The news regarding the fourth wave of coronavirus pandemic has been making rounds since long but the government did nothing to devise a mechanism for daily-wagers and labourers,” he said.
“Due to incompetence of the government and inadequate arrangements, scores of people have gathered outside vaccination centres in blatant violation of the SOPs for corona. We demand the government announce measures for welfare of labourers and daily-wagers so that they can make both ends meet.”
The Pak Sarzameen Party also voiced agreement with the other opposition parties and called it a failure and gross incompetence of the PPP government for which people were made to pay the price.
In a statement, the party asked the provincial government to review its decision and demanded compensation for the losses the traders would suffer because of the lockdown and ample funds for daily-wagers who would have no other recourse to feed their families.
Though traders’ bodies were already raising hue and cry over the Sindh government’s decision, one of their major representative organisations came forward on Friday and asked the provincial authorities to reconsider the decision as it would result in major losses to industry.
In a statement, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) president Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo stressed that Pakistan’s economic hub Karachi should not be completely locked down in the larger national interest, all industries should be allowed to operate seven days a week and continue their production regularly while restaurants should also be allowed to continue 24-hours takeaway and delivery services.
“In order to facilitate common man, all grocery stores in the province should be allowed to operate seven days a week till 8pm,” he said. “We appeal and recommend that the only solution out of the current situation, without causing any harm to businesses and employment opportunities, is to allow business and economic activities under strict compliance of SOPs and mandatory vaccination of workforce.
“If industries and businesses remain under restrictions, we will not be able to pay salaries. The FPCCI fully supports the Sindh government for creating a thriving economic environment in the province,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2021